Miners Protest in Datong, Shanxi

01:14 Mar 8 2011 Datong Shanxi China

From Green Left:

In the city of Datong in Shanxi province, 2000 coal miners from the soon to be closed Baidong mine blocked the roads and clashed with police on March 8 over inadequate redundancies, reported ICHRD.

The 3500 mine workers had been offered 20,000 yuan (US$249) in redundancy pay. But with many of them already having contracted work-related health problems and facing the loss of free health care as well, workers took action to demand a higher redundancy sum.

One miner was arrested but the remaining strikers came to his defence, surrounding the local police station to press for his release.

Years earlier, from The Militant:

Some 2,000 coal miners blocked roads and fought with police in the northern Chinese city of Datong March 8 to protest layoffs, cuts in health care, and inadequate severance pay, according to an Agence France Presse dispatch. In an ensuing clash, cops beat one miner and took him to the local police station. Miners then proceeded to surround the station, forcing the police to release the injured worker.

The workers were reacting to the announced closure of the Baidong mine in Shanxi province. The 3,500 miners employed there were told that along with losing their jobs, health-care coverage would also be cut. They were being offered severance pay of 20,000 yuan ($2,400), which many felt would be inadequate to pay their medical bills for various work-related health problems.

Like other state-owned industries in the Chinese workers state, there is a government-backed union at the mine. Union official Wang Xiaohau claimed that only 200 workers had petitioned the mine bureau, and is quoted as saying, "the miners are very sensitive. They are a little extreme and are uncultured."

A police spokeswoman denied that there had been any protest, but said 100 officers had been dispatched to keep order.

Shanxi is the center of China's coal mining industry, with some 500,000 miners employed around the Datong area. China, which is the world's largest producer and consumer of coal, announced plans to lower production to 900 million tons this year, from a peak of 1.3 billion tons in recent years.

A couple of days earlier in Shanghai, thousands of workers at the Shanghai Zhengtai Rubber factory protested the company's plans to lay off older employees and transfer a number of others. The workers blocked the busy thoroughfare outside the factory March 6.

Pointing to the demands for concessions being placed on the workers, an article in the Financial Times reported that the 2,200 workers at this plant "are already facing many of the pressures that will escalate when China joins the World Trade Organization, likely this year."

In the northern Chinese city of Lanzhou, some 5,000 striking taxi drivers surrounded the Gansu province government offices March 13, according to an Agence France Presse news report. Some 300 cops clashed with the protesters.

The drivers were demonstrating over an increase in fines that can be charged by the police, rising road taxes, and regulations requiring taxis to be outfitted with metal cages separating drivers from passengers. Among the new costs of driving a taxi would be a $300 road fee.
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